Fanny Zhang, a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member, wanted to treat herself to an expensive gift at the Xintiandi commercial complex ahead of the party’s centenary celebrations.
“The Party has advanced with the times over the past 100 years,” said the 42-year Shanghai woman. “Now it is time for middle class consumers to spend more as a way of paying tribute to the great Party.”
Xintiandi, or New World in Chinese, refers to the area centred around Madang Road in the heart of Shanghai, the mainland’s commercial capital. Hong Kong developer Shui On Land began a redevelopment project there in 1999 to turn an area of reconstituted traditional stone-gate houses and some adjoining buildings into a shopping mecca, comprising book stores, cafes, restaurants and shopping malls.
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The complex has been a landmark in Shanghai since the early 2000s, with many tour groups – both domestic and overseas – stopping off there so that shoppers can snap up a gift at its array of upscale boutiques.
This year is a special event for Xintiandi as the development neighbours the site of the CCP’s first Congress in July 1921 and July 1 also marks the 100th anniversary of the ruling party in mainland China.
The grand event has attracted hundreds of wealthy Shanghai locals to Xintiandi since authorities reopened the site in early June after a six-month renovation.
“Xintiandi symbolises the Party’s ability to create a path to prosperity for Chinese people,” said a professor of foreign studies at the East China University of Science and Technology in Shanghai. “And the centenary is interpreted by many high wage earners as an opportunity to display China’s increasing wealth.”
The CCP recently highlighted the economic progress the country has achieved over the past four decades, establishing the Party’s authority. Late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping began the economic ascent with his bold and drastic market reforms in the late 1970s, which have helped to transform China’s economy into the world’s second-largest in four decades.
China’s successful containment of the Covid-19 pandemic last year has cemented the belief in people like Zhang that the mainland’s governing system is superior to those in the West. The CCP currently has more than 90 million members across the country and Zhang is one of them, and spending at Xintiandi gives her a sense of ritual.
On Monday afternoon, Zhang was among hundreds of shoppers roaming the Xintiandi area, drinking cups of coffee and window shopping. Xintiandi has not disclosed any retail sales data since the reopening of the site.
Since China got the coronavirus under control in early 2020 the mainland has been one of the few bright spots in the global economy. Beijing is hoping that buoyant domestic demand can shield China’s economy from any external shocks.
“Covid-19 has altered the way that Chinese consumers think about why and how they purchase fast-moving consumer goods,” said Bruno Lannes, a partner at Bain & Co in Shanghai. “Throughout the crisis, the drive has been to keep themselves and their families healthy and safe, so they have been focused on purchasing products as a way to help them achieve this goal.”
Vincent Lo, Shui On’s chairman, said on Monday that the site of the CCP’s spiritual home had inspired his company to build the landmark project.
“To date, Xintiandi remains one of Shanghai’s most vibrant social and cultural destinations,” he told a seminar organised by the city government via teleconference. “It is my firm belief that Shanghai will provide many more opportunities for everyone in the world interested to come and participate in this exciting growth journey.”
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